Books of Several Stripes

Of late, I’ve seen people online tossing around the idea of making new books available in multimedia packages: the hardcover book plus the e-book download plus, maybe, a downloadable audiobook. As far as I know, there aren’t companies actually planning to do this anytime soon, but it’s an idea that a lot of people like. I definitely do.

Publishers would, of course, have to make this available separately from all of the individual formats, and charge a little more. After all, they’d be technically selling three copies of the book, and that could potentially provide copies to three different people who would otherwise have bought their own. However, that certainly won’t always be the case.

I think families might benefit from this the most. Most nuclear families I know share books, and are unlikely to purchase more than one copy of the same title. Still, they may prefer different formats. Some families have one avid paper-book reader, one person who loves listening to audiobooks during commutes or while exercising, and one who packs a Kindle while traveling. These families – the ones I know, at least – are unlikely to buy several versions of a new book, but might shell out a few extra bucks to get the options.

I don’t know too much about the e-book situation at the moment, not being myself possessed of an e-reader, but here’s my understanding of it: E-books are usually released months after the hardcover book, with Dan Brown having defied that practice with his newest book. Publishers are concerned because e-books are so much cheaper that they fear hardcover sales will drop if they release the e-books at the same time. Unfortunately, the availability of the paper books without the corresponding e-books means that pirated copies hit the Net with no competition, and the publishers (and authors) lose money anyway. The multimedia package could be a way to prevent this from happening – although, of course, it sort of assumes the simultaneous release of hardcovers and e-books.



Linkety Fun!

1. After struggling a little with the specific ages of two characters in The Dogwatchers, I liked this fellow’s pondering of characters’ ages in literature. Includes a link to the blog project he’s working on, which will contain a male and female literary character of every age from, apparently, conception to seventy. (Don’t hold your breath, though – he’s still in the toddler years now.)

2. A brief article analyzes trends among the 7,200 books left behind in UK hotel rooms over the past year.

3. Silly examples of how some classic books might have been titled differently were they published today.

2 thoughts on “Books of Several Stripes

  • Gee whillickers! I just, just finished writing a post on e-books and how publishers could figure out how to differentiate their content so people will be willing to pay for it rather than find a pirated copy for free.

    Your proposal intrigues me. I am bringing this up next class.

  • I think e-books have a ways to go in terms of there being a single almost-universal proprietary format. Music has this, pretty much, in the form of the iTunes file. But until people feel secure that their e-book will work both on their computer and e-reader of choice for quite a while, it’s not going to catch on big. The Kindle seems like it’s going to stick around, but another more popular reader with its own format might well take over in a year or two. (The Palm Pilot, for instance, was ubiquitous for a while and now it’s mostly gone.)

    Until all of this stabilizes, I don’t know that the big companies are going to bother messing with providing more e-book options. It does sound like a cool idea, although I really do think that e-books are pretty useless without e-readers. I’ll sit on my computer and read fan fiction, but that’s because it’s free and there’s no other medium. I would never read an entire e-book on my computer unless it was the best thing ever and I had no other way of getting it.

    The competing with piracy thing is a great argument, though. I remember trying to buy digital music online in 1999 and finding there was no place to do it (I guess it had been discussed but no big labels had signed on yet.) Thus I ended up pirating my very first song….

    I’ll have to read the characters’ age article, it’s very interesting when one becomes older than characters you used to look up to as incredibly old.

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